Police catch alleged Seattle con man

Police catch alleged Seattle con man »Play Video
SEATTLE - A man calling himself Stone Phillips III was arrested in San Diego a few days ago after leaving Seattle and eluding police for more than a year.

KOMO 4 first exposed the fraud more than two years ago and the report prompted alerts around the country.

Local victims say Phillips tricked them out of as much as $1 million by preying on the faithful -- joining churches in Seattle and Tacoma and posing as a financial adviser. He gave workshops at local churches to entice investors into his company, Northwest Financial Solutions.

Laurie Balthis of Grays Harbor County says she lost more than $40,000. Kojo Aako lost more than $5,000, and Cynthia Johnson-Colston lost her entire retirement savings.

"We're talking about $116,000," Colston told us in January 2005. Because the investments turned out to be unregistered, and the rollover application was a suspected fraud, Cynthia also faced tax penalties from the IRS.

KOMO News obtained video of Phillips at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Seattle in late 2002. In it, he presents a lengthy, almost eye-glazing recap of the historical evolution of the Federal Reserve System. He offers himself as someone able to help them with loans and investment advice in the future.

Consumers and local pastors confirm Phillips also preyed on the faithful at St. John Baptist Church in Tacoma, Bethlehem Baptist in Tacoma, and Christian Faith Center in SeaTac.

During our four-month investigation, we linked Phillips to multiple Social Security numbers, more than a dozen different names, a driver's license from Missouri, and phone numbers and addresses in Missouri, Washington, California, Georgia and Arizona.

Phillips was arrested by San Diego police Thursday at an equipment leasing company where he'd reportedly been working as vice president of sales. Our sources say Phillips was working there under the name "P.J. Stone."

Monday morning, he waived right to an extradition hearing and as of Monday evening, remains in the San Diego County jail on $10,000 bond.

He will likely be brought back to the Seattle area to face charges linked to securities and commodities fraud.

We contacted one of the victims in North Carolina Monday. They say they're relieved and hopeful Phillips will be forced to pay back some of the $60,000 they lost. But a lot depends on where the money went, and the direction taken by prosecutors.